Finding meaning for your jazz playing

By Michael Lake | September 8, 2021 |

I just read Viktor Frankl’s classic, Man’s Search For Meaning. It’s been on my reading list for a long time so my recent sojourn to the northern Arizona flower-covered mountains gave me the opportunity to finally read it. In essence, the book is Frankl’s horrifying account of his life in Nazi concentration camps and what…

Warm up your ear for improvisation

By Michael Lake | August 30, 2021 |

We are all pretty good at warming up our bodies to play our instruments. Brass players require a little extra as we limber up the vibrating mechanism called our lips. For that, we play long tones, lip slurs, tonguing, etc. While each instrument has different needs for warming up physically, each one of us can…

So you REALLY think staring at chords helps you improvise better?

By Michael Lake | August 14, 2021 |

Learning to play jazz starts with the exploration of chords. You learn D minor to G7 to C major and all sorts of permutations of that progression and many others. Once you learn the theory of chords, you improvise over them using scales that are associated with each chord. Dorian, Mixolydian, Locrian, Diminished, Blues, and…

Memorization and jazz improvisation

By Michael Lake | August 10, 2021 |

I received an email this morning from a classical pianist eager to improve her jazz skills. Her question involves memorization, which she considers her ‘weakest area’. She asked, “How do I train my brain to play without music?” I’m turning my answer into a post because this is such a common question. She is certainly…

About a metronome

By Michael Lake | August 1, 2021 |

I originally meant to write this as a reply to a comment Richie Beirach wrote on my blog. But as I started writing, I realized that this could be the springboard for something much more important. I wrote a blog post last week suggesting that of all the tools we jazz players have at our…

Don’t blame the tool if you use it for the wrong task

By Michael Lake | July 29, 2021 |

There are lots of ‘tools’ available to someone learning to become a better jazz player. Recordings of great players Method books Scales A pitch tuner Transcribing Harmonic knowledge Patterns Band in a Box A metronome A keyboard (for non-piano players) A recording device Jam sessions A teacher Are they good or bad? It depends on…

Abandoning the safety of the well-worn muscle memory of musical you

By Michael Lake | July 23, 2021 |

That was a comment by an attendee at my live webinar this week held for subscribers of my course Improvisation Savvy. He is NOT alone in having been taught that improvisation is some sort of clever manipulation of letters and numbers memorialized on a piece of paper. Unfortunately, he’s much more alone in that he’s…

Answering the question that will lead to the best musical version of you

By Michael Lake | July 11, 2021 |

Silly question, right? Or is it? My reason for getting out of bed every morning to write books, create courses, and produce videos centers around that very question and how your answer to that question directly impacts your jazz playing and the satisfaction you enjoy playing your instrument. I love jazz because it showcases the…

Your mind plays jazz, not your instrument

By Michael Lake | June 27, 2021 |

This is a recurring theme to my writing, interview questions, books, and courses. As Hal Galper famously (to me at least) once said pointing to his head, “THIS is the real instrument we play.” He meant that improvisation comes from your musical mind, not from your instrument. I see evidence of this constently from myself…

An important musical lesson Sheila Jordan can teach us all

By Michael Lake | June 24, 2021 |

I’m producing video marketing for my Jazz Master Savvy product and I was reminded of a priceless clip from my interview with the great singer Sheila Jordan. In fact, I put her clip into one of my ads as an example of some of the gems from my library of interviews and other conversations. Here’s…